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Any Other Math / Physics Late Bloomers Here?

  1. Nov 3, 2009 #1
    Lately I've been feeling a little down about this. I feel like I got in way too late in the game and I'll never catch up. I'm 22 and just started my second year at university, and I do well... but I'd like to do better than just well.

    Mostly I think what's at fault is that I got into math too late; I was 20 when I first picked up an Algebra / Pre-calculus book. A year later I entered university, and even though I'm comfortable enough to get good grades, I feel like I'm still playing "catch up"-- skills that should be as natural to me as + and - are still completely new, so I don't have the time to get a deeper understanding of what I'm learning; because I'm still double checking that I did my factoring right :rolleyes:.

    My biggest fear is to always remain a step behind. The other kids in my class (well, the ones who are good) have been familiar with all of these ideas that are new to me for at least 5 years, if not longer. -- In her blog, Tanya Khovanova comments that at 15, she was told she might be too old to be serious about math http://blog.tanyakhovanova.com/?p=73" ; I certainly can't think of a mathematician or physicist who wasn't doing it since childhood (Fermat maybe?)

    I feel like just now I'm starting to begin to understand to "think in math", and starting to get a more intuitive understanding of concepts... but it's an uphill battle. I may be 22, but in math years, I'm 2.

    Am I worrying too much? Will the playing field eventually level out? -- Anyone of you guys start out late or know of anyone who has?
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 3, 2009 #2
    The fact that you are concerned about falling behind to me says that you have nothing to worry about. You will keep doing well and inevidably pick these things up as second nature, it's only if you stop caring you will fail. 22 is still very young, and try not to worry about what other people are good at and how easily they acheive, the point is that doesn't matter in the end you walk away with a degree and none of that sh.. is of consequence.
  4. Nov 3, 2009 #3
    I started studying physics at the age of 35. That was 24 years ago. My experience means that I can run circles around the incoming freshmen and most sophomores. However, by the time they are juniors, the better ones understand more than I do, and just about all first year graduate students run circles around me. Hopefully that will soon include you.
  5. Nov 3, 2009 #4
    Hey Jimmy, I was two years older than you.
  6. Nov 3, 2009 #5
    Hey man theres nothing to be worried about at all. Everyone has to start somewhere but thee end result will be the same and I'm sure if this is what you want to pursue than you'll be glad you went through the process...

    Who cares what you're level is comparative to others your age?

    I'm 20 years old and going to university next year for my first year. I didn't go before because I had ****ed around in highschool so had to stay one extra year and then I had no money to pay the large tuition fees and felt that I wasn't ready for that part of my life so I took a year off to work.
    So I'll be going into my biomedical sciences program quite a bit older than most people but I feel like it doesn't matter and by the end of the program I highly doubt the age difference will be there; there might even be people older than myself there.
  7. Nov 3, 2009 #6
    I'm a year older than you and in the same boat. I'm going to be taking Cal II in the Spring. I feel so old...
  8. Nov 3, 2009 #7
    I have many years on you moe and I am still waiting to bloom. :smile:

    I know exactly what you mean. I understand math to the extent that I do extremely well is my classes. But I always have lingering questions about the most trivial and fundamental of matters.

    I think that by asking the 'trivial' questions (by actually asking someone else or just by asking yourself) and finding the answers is how I try to catch up ... make it second nature.

    But I think that I will always feel like I am running to keep up. And I think that is a good thing.
  9. Nov 3, 2009 #8


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    You're older than I am! Haha!

    That means I was only about 10 years older than you when I took Physics, DiffEQ, Electromagnetics, Solid state physics, etc. (okay, Jimmy, you may not be much older than me, but you're still older).
  10. Nov 4, 2009 #9
    Lol if it makes you feel better - I travelled for a year and changed majors. I graduated at 24 - turning 25.

    I too felt that I had a lot to catch up on with students younger than me. I spent more time over the holidays to read up on the material before the next semester started.

    Also, if I might add, I somehow made it through physics during my engineering degree not knowing as much as I should have - just enough to do well in the final. After I graduated I went back to the books that interested me and am really focusing on learning what I should have. Its not for grad school - but more of a personal thing.
  11. Nov 5, 2009 #10
    I didn't really start actualy looking at math till I was like 26. Before then I never cared how people figured this stuff out at first way back in the day... It can really change your understanding of math if you look into its history. It also helps you to be more aware of when bogus math is being put in front of you. So I would suggest to anyone who wants to understand math to learn its history.
  12. Mar 5, 2011 #11
    I wouldn't worry too much. I went to college at age 23 with no appreciable mathematical background. I played catch up and graduated BS physics with honors. I went on to do part of a PhD (I had to leave to make some $$) and then received my MBA. I'm now 30 doing data analysis and modeling for a major Internet company and I'm planning to go back and get my PhD in physics (but not until I'm about 37 - I want to take some self-exploratory learning time). The reality is, as long as you have a love for learning and you expend the joyful effort needed, you will keep going. The brain is a wonderfully malleable device and it craves novelty, so doing math, physics, etc is great for it. Stay healthy, get rest and don't worry about things like age.
  13. Mar 8, 2011 #12

    My entire childhood, going through school, was nothing but a big, jumbled mess.

    Basically, we moved back-and-forth between two states--A LOT! And as a consequence: I had literally attended something like 7 or 8 schools (if you also count Pre-school) in between Brooklyn, NY and parts of New Jersey; by the time I was just 18 years old. Needless to say: I've never felt really settled anywhere.

    To make matters worse: when I was 14, our grandfather died; and I took it really badly (he was the only stability we ever had, emotionally or financially). At the same time also, I literally had just started high school; and on top of that, I did so minus the few people I had gone though school with for about 3 years before.

    I really just wanted to be left alone a lot, by that point. But, of course: somehow that just makes you an easier target for bullying! It's almost like you wear a sign on yourself: "please pick on me!" :smile: Because instantly: you become a magnet for troublemakers.

    I got jumped a couple of times while in my automotive shop class, and in gym; until eventually I just dropped out of high school altogether. I got tired of getting my *** kicked by appointment, I suppose. School seemed hardly about learning anything (beyond possibly learning to keep a low profile). It was indeed a very, very dark time in my life.

    My only real enthusiasm at the time was, honestly, more to become an artist. I usually excelled in science and in history; but I never really appreciated either language arts or mathematics, oddly enough (and they are the basis of each, of course).

    Eventually though, I guess I just got really angry with myself. By the time I was 16, I felt that I could create maybe at least decent illustrations, of animals or figures; but I always had this feeling somehow also, that I didn't want to go through life being just "a one trick pony." I also felt very guilty about quitting school. And so, one day: I literally just started reading, and working through portions of a GED exam book. And things sort of went from there.

    I read and taught myself a lot: algebra, geometry, world history, physical science (pre-physics, if you will--something like a blend of basic physics and chemistry combined), literature (I read Shakespeare by myself, along with several copies of Cliffnotes).

    The only writing I did, however, was in copying things that somehow felt important--because I wanted to take the SAT's; if only to prove to myself that I wasn't entirely stupid! I used to try to copy illustrations from textbooks a lot also.

    Technically speaking: I stole a few books from my old high school (because, I never gave them back). I'm never going to either, by the way. Frankly, they can kiss my ***. They weren't using them for much more than paper weighs--or weapons--anyhow.

    Still the point I'm trying to make: is that I absolutely NEVER felt like I was "good" at math somehow. I just did what was assigned to me, and got C's and B's mostly in junior high, if I remember correctly. It was just something we had to do for homework; and I didn't want to get yelled at for not doing.

    And stupid as it sounds: I never saw the practicality of it, math; and even in spite of the fact that I enjoyed science class, and my personal science projects so much.

    Really I was living in my own head, and in my own world between the ages of 11-16. I just was oblivious to everything going on around me. Short of getting beat up on: I barely noticed anyone getting into trouble ever. It was like a cloud was around my head.

    I absolutely never did drugs, smoked, or drank either--I was paranoid enough on my own! :smile: I just literally just wanted to draw superheroes, and nothing else.

    Anyway, I truly have always felt that maybe I could have been better: had I had this personal sort of "great awakening" and "enlightenment" much earlier than I did. But that's just not the way things worked out for me.

    This is going to sound really cheesy, but the truth is: Bill Nye really saved me. While I was at home, as a something called 3-2-1 Contact. Even earlier still--as a very little boy (before school even)--I used to love this Physics program called Eureka!.


    Maybe it was just the harpsichord in the theme music, that initially attracted me; but little did I know I would end up with a Physics degree. Go figure.

    Eventually, I went back to high school, graduated with honors, and then went to Seton Hall.

    I have to give credit though where credit is due: these women really saved my life too: http://www.altonfranciscans.org/; [Broken] and if I hadn't ever known them, I probably would have ended up a mean, ruthless, selfish bastard, for all of the abuse I took. To this day, I refuse to drink.

    Moral of the story: I dropped out of high school, sucked at math--and now I teach it! I got a 141 on the Praxis exam for Mathematics Content Knowledge, if that is any indication of what a person is capable of (137 needed to be certified to teach, in NJ at least).

    Really, I shall always desire to have accomplished much more than this; still it is quite sobering and empowering for me, to acknowledge that I somehow managed it, even with very little help during my formative years (and virtually without any during college).

    My physics professors were some of the most selfish men that I have ever met, in all of my life. I respected exactly 3 of them.

    I guess that's why I became a teacher: because I've always resented suffering from instability; and in feeling entirely on my own, where my education was concerned.

    Students need guidance, and the ability to rely on something; especially when they are young. And if schools cannot supplement those 2 basic elements--or supplant them altogether, if necessary: in light of the instability children frequently experience at home--then that is their real failure, in our society.

    So don't give up the ship friend: you really CAN do anything if you are focused enough on what you want. For me at least, it took getting mad enough at myself.

    Exactly! Boy but does that summarize a lot. : )
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  14. Mar 8, 2011 #13
    I'm almost 38 and just getting started in physics and computer programming fresh off a GED.

    Wanna race?
  15. Mar 8, 2011 #14
    Amen brother!!! :rofl:

    The problem with humanity is that we need about one more decade in our "grub state"... HS is just too damned random. Speaking as someone who had only partial home-stability, you've pegged it in my view.

    edit: 3-2-1 Contact was terrific... it makes you appreciate how far we've fallen in our tv programming. That was with... Lamar Burton (a la STNG) right?
    I vaguely remmeber the theme... "Contact, is the moment, is... something... something... the reason... something...." :wink:
  16. Mar 8, 2011 #15

    I think JUST Reading Rainbow, which was on probably right before or after it. Levar Burton was the man.

  17. Mar 8, 2011 #16
    Oh right!... I used to watch them... wow... mmeeeeeemmmmmmmooooorrrrriiiieeeesss. :wink:
  18. Mar 8, 2011 #17
    I'm in a similar situation, but I'm a bit farther ahead than you. I'm 22 also, and I'm a 2nd year physics student (but I got a 2 year degree in computer science before i decided to get into physics). Honestly i look at my "peers" and I'm not impressed. I think professors can spot a bunch of immature brats vs. someone whose genuinely there to learn. All I had to do was ask one of my professors and he agreed to give me a research position for the summer - so just study and get good grades and make your age work to your advantage. I.E. don't be giggling about WoW jokes as the professor is trying to get lecture started.

    edit - **** I just realized this post is from '09. WHO BUMPED THIS??
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 25, 2017
  19. Mar 9, 2011 #18
    I wouldn't worry too much, age hardly matters in my experience. The thing is a lot of the younger students are stupid and spend half there time cramming before a test to pass never really learning anything due to being immature. Then they forget it all over the summer while they kill there brain cells with alcohol.
  20. Mar 9, 2011 #19


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    I didn't start my physics degree until I was 24. Am 30 now, pursuing a master's, then eventually a PhD. I'll be old by that time.
  21. Mar 30, 2011 #20
    I'm almost 28 and thinking about getting a BS in physics. I can do it at my local university and I have a G.I. Bill that will pay for all tuition plus probably over $1000/month for rent plus I might be able to get more from FAFSA.

    I feel like a late bloomer but it beats the back-breaking construction work I do now. And I wouldn't even start until fall (giving me time to catch up on a lot of math I have completely forgotten).

    Any tips or objections?

    It makes me laugh, however, that a 22 year-old thinks they are too old. I am 27 and figure even if I went all the way to a Ph.D. I'd still have a few good decades of work and learning ahead of me. Discouragement in this subject is not for someone in their twenties.
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